Choosing a good veterinarian

Choosing a veterinarian is more difficult today than it was when I was a Twenty-something a long time ago. Not only has veterinary medicine advanced along with care for humans, but the costs for care have increased at a similar pace. While every community seems to have a plethora of vet clinics, and while many of the established clinics do afford the same technology – cancer treatments, stem cell solutions, prescription diets, and other specializations, the fundamental aspect of any business, is whether clients are drawn to the staff working there. Unusual conditions such as a Pandemic causing some to go out of business, may have created more demand than supply. Still, some vets could only treat a fixed number of clients and maintain a reputation for excellent care. I had sought a new veterinarian after having a poor experience with a clinic where I had been a longtime client (and had just visited with one of my animals a couple weeks prior). They gave me no opportunity to voice my latest concerns with a supervisor.

Tending to a dog’s or cat’s needs during a pandemic proved to be pretty complicated. If you already had a veterinarian, finding whether your vet had office hours that overlapped with your availability was one issue. Due to social distancing requirements, waiting in the clinic parking lot, and calling in to the office that you arrived, results still in being assigned to a first-come, first-served list. This, unfortunately, was no different than having an appointment – and to wait outside the clinic till your animal was escorted inside. What makes one clinic experience better than another is the human factor.

Service and likeability factors

Hearing a pleasant voice on the telephone, despite the employee’s hectic daily schedule of animal patients; having a staff member who listens to your concerns is important. One who takes notes during a conversation, and asks clarifying questions about your animal builds trust and likeability for clients. In spite of what has become routine inconveniences, talking with other clients reinforce word-of-mouth recommendations of neighbors and friends whom to choose for veterinary care. Keeping clients, in a community like San Diego, where cost of treatment is fairly even between all providers, requires trust in their provider

Keeping up with an animal’s shots, health, and flea treatments are expensive. Yet these are normal expenses for a member of the family. For dogs that have been part of my family for 11 and 5 years, I have been fortunate that their good health has generally kept me out of the clinic but for licensing renewal times. Dexter’s flea -irritated tail was another matter. As a prudent man, when the vet recommends a treatment for fleas, but leaves decisions to pursue more costly lab-work, heartworm medication and the like up to me, I chose the former. Of course, just as I am starting to feel a few aches and pains of age, I expect I will rely on that likeability factor to advise what I should do for my senior canines when they cannot drag me out the door for walks as nimbly as they do now.

Likeability factors

  • clearly communicating; good listening skills
  • humble attitude and fostering mutual respect
  • if the patient (dog) responds well after being treated
  • vet and/ or staff, providing information to decision-maker regarding treatment
  • staff members maintaining a positive and pleasant demeanor, even late into the work-day

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